SF Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, 2/24/2007

Smells like teen spirit
San Francisco Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty”
Saturday, February 24, 2006, 8PM

As a teen, the first full-length non-Balanchine story ballet I saw was The Royal Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty.” One of my fondest memories of this was the awe factor: the first time the fairies entered, Aurora balancing during the Rose Adagio, and later the celebratory wedding scene. Last year’s rendition by the Kirov Ballet didn’t quite hold up to my adolescent memories, but this weekend, San Francisco Ballet stood up to the challenge with its own version.

Choreographed by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson (after Marius Petipa, of course) in 1990, this Sleeping Beauty paints more than just a pretty picture. Sure, there are attractive sets, happy corps de ballet dancers, lavish yet understated costumes and wigs, and the well-known story, but what’s more, there are also dancers with determination and spirit. Yuan Yuan Tan, Saturday’s Aurora, showed us that beauty is more than skin deep. While not completely believable as a genuine, sprightly 16 year old, Tan performed with grit and flow, with jaw dropping balances in attitude (I think I counted at least 5 seconds in there somewhere. Thank goodness for the evening’s conductor, Martin West, and his baton!) during the Rose Adagio. Later on, when she came “out of retirement” at the ripe ol’ age of 116, Tan seemed more relaxed and refined, allowing her upper body to flow more and adding a peaceful smile to her face. Maybe the 100-year nap was a good thing. Or perhaps this was her reaction to her newfound love for the ever-able Prince Desiré, portrayed by Tiit Helimets, who partnered her soundly and effortlessly throughout while displaying gorgeously centered pirouettes and fantastically light n’ fluffy (just how I like my pancakes!) beats.

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Photo by Marty Sohl

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